A lot has been said recently about empowering women. That is a great thing, and I am all for it, but we sometimes forget that the struggle for equality and respect for women has been going on for generations.
There was a time in Virginia when a woman lost all her rights upon marriage. Any money or land or other property that she owned before marriage now belonged to her husband. And it took an act of the Virginia General Assembly – literally – to gain a divorce even if the marriage was an abusive one.
And the right to vote? Forget about it. That is, until Aug. 18, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted women the right to vote. The victory was more than 60 years in the making. Among those suffragettes, as they were called then, was a native Stauntonian named Fannie Bayly King. Fannie, was born in Staunton in 1864, the daughter of Edmund Wilson and Edmonia Bell Bayly. Fannie ended up marrying William Wayt King, an administrator at Mary Baldwin. They had one son, Edmund Bayly.
A Presbyterian with a strong desire for culture and learning, King gained her education at Mary Baldwin Seminary and became active in organizations such as church groups, library associations, welfare groups, and the Suffrage Club. She helped found the Community Welfare League in Staunton, and is known among some of us “older” residents for donating her home, Kalorama, to the city as the…
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